Refusing to believe I AM NOT

piano keys worship music

I am not a worship leader.

These were the first words that came to mind when our associate pastor asked me if I’d be interested in leading worship at a winter family camp retreat this past weekend.

Let’s be frank. I’m not. I pound on the enormous ebony grand piano in our church with all my heart most Sundays, but I am not the leader, the melody, or the keeper of time. I am the background. The harmony. The filler of sound.

Saying yes was a stretch, not only of my capabilities, but of what I believed about myself.

Even though I stress telling the truth to my children (one in particular that needs help deciphering her imagination from her reality), it’s embarrassing to admit that I routinely lie… to myself. These lies range from big to little: I’m not a good mother, I can’t keep anything together, I’m a mess, I never have time, I shouldn’t say yes, and my particular favorite thorn, I’m not enough.

Sometimes, I can see these lies for what they are – trickery, falsehood, arrows aimed at the heart of who I want to be. Other days, I fall into their wide open trap.

***

This weekend, we had the opportunity for some family play time in the Big Sandy Camp gym during the retreat. One of the activities offered was crate stacking. I’m not sure where this originated, but it’s a unique (and strange) challenge.

The crate stacker harnesses up in climbing gear, and hooks into the belay. Then the stacker starts stacking, creating a tower of side by side plastic milk crates. The operative is to stack enough crates on top of one another in order to touch the ceiling of the gym. Helpers hand, then toss, then all out throw the crates up to the stacker, who attempts to do all of this while maintaining balance, managing fear, and ignoring the burn and tingle of tired muscles.

crate stacking

I watched the process, and point blank told myself, I’m not going to be good at that. 

That was, actually and probably, the truth. I have torn cartilage in my knees and a marginal sense of balance. As much as I love thrill-seeker experiences, my performance abilities are average at best.

But something inside me said, do it anyway.

So I did. I put on the ridiculous harness that accentuates parts of me that don’t particularly need to be accentuated, stepped on the first crate, and started stacking.

I stacked, and squealed, and wobbled, and laughed, and kept on climbing. I felt fear tighten my senses and narrow my vision. I gulped in enormous, burning breaths and felt the green plastic crates swaying under my nervousness.

I stacked until my lower half tingled with exhaustion and nervousness, and then I slowly stood up, still a few too many inches away from that corrugated white metal ceiling. I knew, with the certainty born of experience, that if I stayed up much longer I was going to fall. My feet were numb, my legs were burning, and I couldn’t steady myself enough to catch and climb another crate. My only chance at reaching the ceiling was to jump for it.

I shouted down to my belay that this was it, I was going to jump. And in that moment, I knew I probably would not reach my goal. The probability of my getting enough vertical to hit the ceiling by jumping off a 20 foot stack of precarious milk crates was decidedly low. 

But falling, without trying, was not something I wanted to do either. So I jumped.

I jumped, and I reached, and I missed.

And in that moment of exhilarating failure, I felt the rope catch my body as I stretched my arms wide anyway, realizing that I could still fly on the way down.

jump fly fail

***

Believing the lies we tell ourselves is a common plague. And like the plagues of ancient Egypt, they are dangerously incapacitating.

I am not turns into I can’t, and I can’t turns into I won’t, and I won’t turns into a heart closed off from the possibility of growth in our lives.

One of the lines from an All Sons and Daughters song named Called Me Higher that we sang at the retreat this weekend said it this way: “I could hold on. I could hold on to who I am and never let you change me from the inside.”

It’s easy to hold on to our lies, isn’t it? It’s easy because lies feel like truths in our moments of messing up. Saying I am not confirms something about what just happened, whether it’s failure, or a faltering, or a simple mistake that we’d easily forgive someone else.

Believing the abstract of I am, or I can is much harder. It means trusting our intrinsic worth over our temporal works.

For a person of faith, asserting our I am’s over our I am not’s is an act of belief. It is understanding that God’s words are more than stories and platitudes from an ancient book; they are promises from a living and active Father who wants us to recognize and be secure in the value he created us with.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. -1 John 3:1

I said yes to leading worship. I said yes, knowing full well that I’m not a worship leader, and that very soon, everyone at the retreat would know that too. I said yes because despite my limitations, I love to play, sing, and be a part of a community of praise.

Yes meant possibility. Yes meant growth. Yes meant serving something bigger than my own need to be perfect.

Yes meant that I am not had no power over what could be done if I simply tried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To the Woman in the Bathroom

bathroom-signDear friend,

Can I presume to call you that? I hope so. Because that’s how I felt when we met eyes for a second in the women’s bathroom today.

I walked in with a baby in a car seat on one arm, a purse slung across my tired shoulder, and three little girls pushing to get around me. The girls were chattering excitedly, for a minute, I saw them as a stranger might.

I saw the black and white striped pants with the over-sized pink dress that Gabby loves to wear. I saw Ellis’s stained white tank top with the pink sparkly flamingo, and her black stretch pants that have somehow gotten a little too short over the summer. I saw Lucy and her curtain of self-cut bangs, trimmed up by her auntie but still managing to look like a short haired version of Farrah Fawcett. Gabby turned and I noticed I’d forgotten to comb out the bird’s nest in the back of her hair, the one she manages to recreate every night with great skill.

Then the baby started crying, and I whipped back in to the present, racing into the stall so we could get out before he started a full-blown beller of discontent.

I sat there on the toilet, counting the pairs of feet running past my door, and I thought of you, the stranger standing at the counter, watching all of us with a smile on your face and not a hint of judgement in your eyes while you washed your hands.

Friend, I’m so grateful for your kindness. I know most of the time, we are all a hot mess trying to get out the door. Someone’s shoes don’t fit, someone’s pants are dirty, and I’m desperately hoping that the blush I managed to swipe on my cheeks will make me look at least a little bit like I tried.

Heaven knows, I try. I wake up with Ellis at 6:45 most mornings, and haul the baby downstairs with us even though he’s not totally awake yet so that if he cries, he won’t wake up his twin sisters. I attempt semi-health conscious breakfasts and a load of laundry each day so that we have clean clothes. I remind myself to slam a glass of water after my two cups of coffee so I don’t get totally dehydrated and give the baby too much caffeine.

The day keeps going like that – full of tries that sometimes work, sometimes fail, but generally keep the wheels on the bus, and right now, that’s the best I can do.

So us out of the house this morning, dressed, fed, and generally in good moods, is a pretty good accomplishment. We’re definitely not the most stylish, but we’ve managed to get into the world and interact, and that makes life better.

And you, with your warm smile and kind heart? Well, I want to be more like you. I want to smile at people more. I want to not think twice about snarly hair or mismatched clothes, or even looks in general. I want to heap grace upon grace on everyone I come in contact with, knowing that being comfortable in another person’s presence is one of the greatest feelings ever.

Thanks friend-that-I-don’t-know. I needed that.

Maybe we all need a little more of that.